Reviews written by registered user
|15 reviews in total|
There is a very strange fascination with this movie that I really don't
understand, and in fact, I cannot even comprehend it so I won't even
try. But somehow, the general consensus on this movie has been
positive, which is bewildering to me because I don't think I've ever
seen such a pretentious, worthless, work of a wannabe auteur gain such
Zach Braff is a bad student moviemaker. It is a fact because he shares the exact same characteristics as other bad student moviemakers. So much so that I expected him to possess one of the NYU film school's certifications to make music videos. He aimed "Garden State" at people my age and believed that he could explain our twenty-something angst with his laundry list of blatant hypocrisies.
He blames prescription drugs, he blames his parents, he blames the broken latch on a dishwasher. Braff spends so much time analyzing what's wrong with life and family that he doesn't recognize that he depends on those same things to survive. The fact is, there isn't anything really wrong with his life. He's only trying to make us feel like there's something wrong with our lives, that maybe we're the ones that have spent most of our years in a drug-induced haze. Braff is wrong, and it demonstrates how bad moviemakers are the ones preaching an agenda rather than portraying honest characters.
And that's not to say his preaching is any good either. His scenes of calmly experiencing a plane crash, the sterile bedroom, and blending in against a wall pattern are obvious suggestions of his mental state, and so obvious that it takes away from the narrative of the movie. He spends all his time feeling sorry for himself and hanging-out with his shadow puppet friends, who seem so incapable of expressing any realistic emotions that they have to exhibit an array of absurdities in order to pretend to be plausible human beings.
"Garden State" is a demonstration of a young moviemaker trying to make an important statement by contriving meaning out of something that was a bad idea to begin with. Ian Holm plays an emotionless father in this movie, and I somehow believe that he was not acting in his role. I believe he was so bored by the quack pseudo-intelligence behind the script that he felt it unnecessary to put a mature adult in his scenes.
After all, does anyone on this planet know what the "infinite abyss" is? Does even Zach Braff know what the "infinite abyss" is, or is it just another spit bubble that looks like something that has substance but is really just the foaming hot air coming out of his mouth? One thing I do admire about Braff. He was able to convince so many people that he actually knows what he's talking about.
Out of the 1200 movies I've seen, this is one of the truly awful ones that scrapes the bottom with "Autumn in New York," "40 Days and 40 Nights," and Demi Moore's "The Scarlet Letter." This is one of those movies that I paid to see and felt so cheated by the end, that I snuck into another movie. Happily, that movie was "Napoleon Dynamite," which was like a pleasant breeze that cleared the stink that "Garden State" left in its wake.
People who like this movie need to grow up.
I admit my comments on "Batman Returns" are probably biased because I
have a strange sort of love for this movie, which I remember that Gene
Siskel also had with "Saturday Night Fever." This was the first movie
that I ever owned, and I grew up watching it. Batman was probably my
favorite comic book hero when I was young, but I have never read Bob
Kane. I completely understand why some Batman fans hate this movie, and
it's probably the same reason why I dislike the Lord of the Rings
trilogy. When you become familiar with someone's work and form your own
interpretations, it becomes difficult to watch someone else change it.
But by imagining that this movie has no ties to the original comic book except through the superficial use of its characters, it's not difficult to see an odd sort of genius behind it's making. When Tim Burton created this eerily dark version of Gotham City, he was making an homage to "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," which no doubt has had a great influence on his work. Maybe it's true that comic book movies don't blend well with film-noir, but if any comic book had to be chosen to do so, it would be Batman.
I believe the reason why some people dislike this movie is because there's no character to identify with. In the first movie, we had Kim Basinger's character, who served as the movie's reality check, and we discovered Batman's world with her beside us. She is one of the heroes of the movie that we could identify with. However, the sequel has no one to guide us through. One of the qualities of film-noir is that there are no heroes, and that's certainly true in "Batman Returns."
The main characters in this movie are obviously insane and driven by their own selfish motivation: the Penguin with his self-loathing and desire to make others feel his pain, Catwoman with her intense hatred of her boss and wish to free herself from a male-dominated world, Batman on his continuous quest to take revenge for his parents on every criminal he meets, and Max Shreck in his cynical love of profiteering. The characters aren't fighting for world domination or any of the more grandiose plots we see in comic book movies but for satisfying their emotional needs.
There isn't a sense of morality or the incessant good vs. evil undercurrent that is so common in this type of a movie. The characters are caricatures of raw human emotions in collision, and it's interesting to note that the Penguin, Catwoman, and Batman don't even really hate each other. They fight only because they stand in each other's way, and as far as the acting goes, it's superbly under-appreciated.
Michelle Pfeifer and Danny DeVito give the best performances in their careers. Pfeifer discovered that even though her face is covered by a mask, her lips are all that she needs to convey the seductive malice in her character. DeVito absolutely disappears behind the Penguin in a role that is both disturbing and incredible to see. (Has any other comic book movie ever dared to create a character that takes pleasure in biting a man's nose off?)
All in all, the movie contains some brilliant cinematography by Stephan Czapsky, who also worked with Tim Burton on "Edward Scissorhands" and "Ed Wood." It's filled with strange sexual inhibition and a depressing outlook on the history and future of its characters, and so "Batman Returns" isn't a movie that will ever be liked or appreciated by a wide audience. But for those of us that do love the movie, we tacitly agree that it's the best comic book movie ever made, and we smile at all the "Spiderman 2" yuppies.
I won't hide the fact that my comments here are directed toward the people
that don't like this movie, but my foremost goal is to clarify a few issues
about this movie that some people just plainly don't have
Issue 1: The movie is gratuitously violent!
Well, yes and no. I admit that for it's time 'Pulp Fiction' seemed excessively bloody and does at times glamorize violence, but if you review the film frame by frame, you'll realize that most of the violence is implied. The famous needle scene and Marvin's unexpected end actually show less than you may think. Tarantino stealthily cuts away at the exact moment when the audience expects to see something gruesome, and everything that we think we saw only occurred in our imaginations. Now apart from those two scenes, there is a sword fight and a few executions, but none of them are as gruesome as what one would expect to see in action movies.
The reason why people believe the movie is so violent is because of the extraordinary tension that Tarantino builds up in every scene. Bret's interrogation creates incredible tension because everyone knows that it will explode in violence, but they don't know when. Vincent's "accident" is excruciating to some people because they see the gun bouncing in Vincent's hand just before it discharges. People find it painful to watch because what they fear would happen is exactly what happens. I know some people dislike this movie because everyone laughs at the violence. They don't seem to understand that the audience is supposed to laugh. The laughter is there to relieve the tension because otherwise the movie really would be gratuitously violent.
This movie is a caricature of criminals and neurotics, and the point is to watch them react to their world. Fans of this movie are not blood-thirsty and do not find it cool to kill people. What so many like about 'Pulp Fiction' is how Tarantino builds up his events and then pays them off so elegantly that some mistake it for a director trying to be cool. He isn't trying. He's succeeding very brilliantly.
Issue 2: The non-linear story is confusing and pointless!
This issue that some people have with 'Pulp Fiction' really bewilders me, and it's plainly obvious that the people who says it are conventional movie watchers who don't like to put effort into what they're watching. These mainstream movie-goers want plot points and character arcs that can be diagrammed. While there's nothing wrong with linear story-telling, non-linear movies can be a relief sometimes, especially when it's done well. 'Pulp Fiction' is a perfect example of non-linear story-telling because the movie cannot be told in a linear fashion!
Think about what would happen. The movie would begin with Jules and Vincent, but then Jules' redemption would happen midway through the movie, Vincent would go on his date with Mia, and finally Butch would have his turn. The movie wouldn't make any sense! People would wonder why Butch was introduced so late, and Jules' redemption would feel less meaningful because it would no longer be the focus at the end. But as it is, the movie begins and ends perfectly. Tarantino introduces all the characters at the correct moments, and he places the chapters in such a way that it brings more focus on the characters rather than the plot.
If the movie had ended with Butch riding away, it would have felt drab and awkward, but ending with Jules feels ennobling.
Issue 3: The dialogue is meaningless!
I know it shouldn't, but this issue really ticks me off sometimes because there's not a shred of truth behind it. It's like complaining that Mozart's music has too many notes. People complain not because there's too many, but because they're just too lazy to listen to all of it and interpret what it means. As Roger Ebert says, Tarantino's dialogue is "load bearing." Take the "Quarter Pounder with cheese" discussion between Jules and Vincent. Some may believe it's frivolous dialogue, but the information we learn from it makes a reprise in a later interrogation and initiates the mounting tension in that scene.
The discussion of foot massages introduces the imposing threat of dating Mia Wallace, and Fabi's speech about potbellies is used to hide the fear in her situation. She's trying to comfort herself with pillow talk so that she won't have to talk about hiding from the mafia. Honestly, 'Pulp Fiction' is the most quotable movie ever made. At times, the dialogue sounds like poetry. The conversations do not jump or bounce, they flow and ebb with the sounds always hitting their emotional cues. It's a rare film that can be just as entertaining when listened to rather than watched.
If you are one of those few that cannot at least appreciate how well Tarantino creates his characters and narrative structure, then don't bother complaining because I already feel sorry that you cannot enjoy the movie as so many do. At the very least, you should not criticize the movie with false and shallow comments. Because really, in the end, you're only embarrassing yourself.
The reason why this first part of Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' is
to his latter two parts is because of restraint. Jackson was restrained
over doing it with the CGI and "epic" battle sequences, which in my
does not make a story epic. Part of the reason was simply because Tolkien
did not have very many battles in the first part of his book, which
thankfully forced Jackson to focus on creating a believable world rather
than a believable hack-n-slash action movie.
I don't find much entertainment in watching people mutilate each other, but I love it when a movie engages me in a world, and 'The Fellowship of the Ring' does just that. Certainly the most breathtaking scenes in the movie are the moments of patient observation, when the camera pans around and captures the beautiful settings of Middle Earth. I must give Jackson credit. He did hire some very extraordinary artists that have envisioned one of the grandest interpretations of Tolkien's world.
There are about five particular moments that stick out in my mind and gave me that tingle of goosebumps down my spine when I saw them for the first time. The first is the introduction to Hobbiton. After the somewhat awkward prologue, I was beginning to have my doubts to whether the movie would live up to the book. But the movie surprised me. Hobbiton is perfect. The houses have flower patches and old fences, the roads look worn and made through decades of travel, and the Old Mill spins with the laziness of a quiet town. Every color is vibrant and every moment looks as through it was taken out of a picture book. Although I still don't agree with the particular look of the Hobbits, I believe everything else in Hobbiton is worthy of Tolkien's words.
The second moment comes after Frodo's awakening in Rivendell, and the third, during the exploration of the Halls of Moria. In both moments, the camera pans away from the characters and outward into a static shot of their surroundings. The moments make us feel like we're turning our heads and gazing at the world around us just as the characters do. The golden waterfalls of the elven city mark an interesting contrast with the dark halls of the dwarfish mines, but each are inspiring in their own ways and add to feeling of being engaged in a living world.
My other favorite moments come during the exploration of Lothlorien and the passage down the Anduin. And while I won't go into detail about the scenes, since they really should be experienced without any prior expectations, they are monuments in imaginative cinema. 'The Fellowship of the Ring' is one of those rare movies that I always wish I could reexperience for the first time. Unfortunately, Jackson turned away from exploring Middle Earth in his next two movies, and instead, turned to fighting and warfare. He seems to take a lot of pride in the love story and battle sequences he created in 'The Two Towers' and 'The Return of the King,' but it is was in his first movie when he really got it right. In 'The Fellowship of the Ring,' it's okay if the characters are uninteresting and have silly dialogue. Middle Earth is the star, and the characters are the ones seeing it for the first time.
After viewing 'Rear Window' again, I've come to realize that Alfred
Hitchcock was not only a great moviemaker but also a great moviewatcher.
the making of 'Rear Window,' he knew exactly what it is about movies that
makes them so captivating. It is the illusion of voyeurism that holds our
attention just as it held Hitchcock's. The ability to see without being
has a spellbinding effect. Why else is it so uncommon to have characters
movies look directly into the camera? It just isn't as fun to watch
when they know you're there. When we watch movies, we are participating in
looking into another world and seeing the images of which we have no right
to see and listening to the conversations that we should not hear. 'Rear
Window' and Powell's 'Peeping Tom' are some of the best movies that aren't
afraid to admit this human trait. We are all voyeurs.
When watching 'Rear Window,' it is better to imagine Alfred Hitchcock sitting in that wheelchair rather than Jimmy Stewart. When the camera is using longshots to watch the neighborhood, it is really Hitchcock watching, not Stewart. Hitchcock's love of voyeurism is at the center of this movie, along with his fascination with crime and his adoration of the Madonna ideal.
In many of Hitchcock's movies, 'Rear Window,' 'Vertigo,' 'Psycho,' 'The Birds,' etc, the blonde actresses are objects. Notice how rarely they get close with the male leads. In 'Vertigo,' Stewart's character falls in love with the image of Madeleine; in 'Psycho,' we see the voyeur in Hitchcock peeking out of Norman Bates at Marion; and in 'Rear Window,' Jeff would rather stare out of his window than to hold the beautiful Lisa by his side. For Hitchcock, these women are ideals that should be admired rather than touched.
However, the story of 'Rear Window' isn't about the image of women, as it is in 'Vertigo.' 'Rear Window' focuses more on seduction of crime, not in committing it but in the act of discovering it. At one point in the story, Jeff's friend convinces him that there was no murder, and Jeff is disappointed, not because someone wasn't dead but because he could no longer indulge into his fantasy that someone was. Think how popular crime shows are on television, and noir films at the movies. People do not want to commit crimes; they want to see other people commit them.
'Rear Window' is one of the most retrospective movies I've ever seen. In a span of two hours, it examines some of the most recurrent themes in film. When we watch 'Rear Window,' it is really us watching someone watch someone else. And all the while, Hitchcock is sitting on the balcony and seeing our reaction. It is an act of voyeurism layered on top of itself, and it allows us to examine our own behavior as we are spellbound in Hitchcock's world. The only thing that I feel is missing in the movie is a scene of Jeff using his binoculars and seeing himself in a mirror. Why did Hitchcock leave it out? Maybe because it would have been too obvious what he was doing. Or maybe he was afraid that the audience would see themselves in the reflection of the lens.
During the first two hours of this movie, I had thought that it was the
greatest musical ever brought to film. It's only during the last hour that
it begins to languish and plod. If the first two hours are a solid 10/10,
then the last hour is about a 4/10. It brings the average to about 8/10,
which is exactly what I gave the movie, but it's fun to think about how
great the movie could have been had the producers decided to find a better
ending to an otherwise superb story.
It goes to show that film is a tricky medium, and regardless of how great musicals can be, live action simply isn't as interesting when it's recorded. 'My Fair Lady' could have used a bit of trimming, especially in Stanley Holloway's pieces, WITH A BIT OF LUCK and GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME. Although they may have been spectacular to see on stage, movie audiences will yearn to see more about Eliza and wonder why the director spends so much time on her father.
On the brighter side, I believe that I have never seen Audrey Hepburn in a more perfect role. Eliza Doolittle is a lot like she, in their rise from poverty. And watching Audrey is like being invited to see a person shine in their most perfect niche. She isn't gorgeous in a modern sense, but even a decade after her death, her image still carries that immortal appeal. Some critics call it the "it" factor. We don't know what "it" is but we know it's there.
Billy Wilder once said, "God kissed her face, and there she was." For me, I just like her smile, and my smile when I watch her exuberance in one of the defining roles in her career.
I don't have a particular fondness for older silent films. Regardless of how
influential they were, I always watch them with the same critical eye as any
modern movie watcher, and if they don't age well, I tend to dislike them in
spite of their "classic" mantel. 'Nosferatu' shows that good films do not
die. The film is beautifully made and eerily haunting even though it's over
The producers were far ahead of their time, and audiences can see the early techniques that would eventually become the horror genre's mainstay. Max Schreck's resemblance to a vampire is still as disturbing today as it was over half a century ago, and a true movie afficionado has not lived until he or she has seen 'Nosferatu' played with a live orchestra.
'Titanic' is one of those movies that I have a strange relationship with.
When it was released, no one had ever seen anything like it. I marveled at
the technical brilliance, the superb attention to detail, and the incredible
amount of work that went into its production. I liked the movie very much,
but apparently so did many, many other people.
My friends and classmates went to see the movie again and again, week after week. Children and teenagers gasped and said it was the greatest movie ever made. The infamous theme song to the movie was played everywhere, on radios, at funerals, and at every conceivable public arena. And to make it worse, it managed to sweep almost every award it was nominated for, even though it was the year of 'L.A. Confidential,' 'Gattaca,' 'As Good As It Gets,' 'Donnie Brasco,' and P.T. Anderson's superb 'Boogie Nights.' It's true that many of these movies were recognized for their achievements, but it was difficult to hear about anything that wasn't related to 'Titanic.' And I was very tired of it.
I spoke out as often as possible, ridiculing people for loving the movie and for falling for its rather insipid romance story. I tried to spread it around that 'Titanic' is a movie that should be hated, not loved, for its huge production value and mainstream appeal. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only man that did this, and apparently the message has gotten around too well.
It has become so popular to hate 'Titanic' that I think people are disliking it for the wrong reasons. The teenagers that once loved the movie have grown up and began joining the crowds in ridiculing it. In college, I remember wanting to review a scene in 'Titanic' to help me write a paper about the use of light shading and colors in tragedies. While I was watching the movie in the communal lounge, I received no less that a dozen scoffs and insults from passersby. The same people that once loved the movie that I had despised were now turning on me for watching it.
What a strange world. The truth is that 'Titanic' is a wonderfully made movie and worthy of admiration. I reviewed the rewards that it won, and I realized that almost all of them are technical awards, which it deserves. It has been a victim of mainstream shallowness that not only clouded its original appeal but now has lost its fan base simply because it's "uncool" to like the movie.
I am a heterosexual man, and I like 'Titanic.' But now it seems that I have to try to undo the damage that myself and other men have done to what is otherwise an excellent movie.
One recurrent thought passes through my mind as I watch "Detour." It is that
I do not believe a single moment of its story-telling. It isn't because of
the incredible coincidences or the bitter irony but because of the simple
goodness of the main character. Characters in film noir are not role models
or good people placed into bad circumstances. They are bad people who
believe that they're good.
The characters in "Double Indemnity," "Body Heat," or "The Talented Mr. Ripley" do not think of themselves as bad people. They believe they are forced into their crimes by the world, which is the essential difference between crime movies and noir. As pointed out by Roger Ebert: "the bad guys in crime movies know they're bad and want to be, while a noir hero thinks he's a good guy who has been ambushed by life."
"Detour" is told through the central character, Al Roberts, who recalls his story as one made through impossible coincidences and horrible luck. But there is something not right about his story. The audience can pick out the incongruities and flaws as soon as they're told. Was Charles Haskell's death really the result of bad luck or simply a murderer trying to convince himself that it was? We wonder if it is possible that a person as innocent as Al says he is can be forced into such immoral activities. However, the explanation is quite clear. Al is retelling the story not as a true confession but as a man reviewing his defense to the police.
Watching the movie, I was reminded of Tanazaki's "The Key," a novel in which the main character deliberately lies to the audience as a way of reaching the story's conclusion. We do not see a real conclusion to "Detour," but we sense that the police will find the same flaws in Al's story as we do. And that is not a fatal form of story-telling but a way of looking into the mind of a true noir character and seeing the darker depths of his soul. That is why film noir is so haunting and why this movie is so definitive in its genre.
Normally, I detest over use of voice-over narration. I often think to myself
that directors use narration only because they can't think of a better way
to tell the story through the actions of the characters. Why tell the story
when you could show it?
'Forrest Gump,' however, is an exception to that personal belief. The story has to be told through narration because the narrator is in every way the center of the story. Forrest's innocence, his inability to see the evil in human beings, carries the movie because he can never lose that innocence. Forrest is only a step above Raymond from Levinson's 'Rain Man,' and like Raymond, he cannot change the way he is. And because we see everything from Forrest's perspective, we witness the world through a child's eyes and laugh at the irony.
The director, Robert Zemekis, uses that laughter to probe our evolution. Sometimes only through a child's perspective can we look back at how we failed, how we succeeded, and why. In a world that stresses reason and practicality, sometimes it's necessary that we reexamine our humanity by stripping away our cynicism and societal inhibitions, and just take things for what they are. Realistically, we live in a world that would destroy a person like Forrest Gump. But by watching this fairy tale we understand why it shouldn't, and it fills our hearts when it doesn't.
What a wonderful movie.
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